Valerie Cournoyer, Amity Regional High School, Woodbridge, was one of eleven teachers from Rhode Island and Connecticut who will participate in a yearlong professional development program in marine technology and ocean science being offered through the University of Rhode Island’s Inner Space Center (ISC) and University of Connecticut Avery Point, known as the Marine Technology for Teachers and Students (MaTTS) Project.
Teachers will participate in a series of intensive professional development sessions led by ocean scientists this spring during which they will build marine technologies like hydrophones, remotely operated vehicles (ROVS), observational buoys, and sensor-based instruments. In July each teacher and two of their high school students will attend a weeklong summer institute at the University of Rhode Island where the teams will deploy their newly built instruments in the field; take part in ISC supported sea-going expeditions; participate in career building activities; and become fully orientated to the ISC’s upcoming expeditions. During the school year, the newly trained students will host live interactions between ISC scientists and local middle school classrooms. The teams will also participate throughout in ISC facilitated webinars, regional science cafes, and online journal blogging.
The MaTTS Project, an innovative $1.2 million National Science Foundation funded program, focuses on providing opportunities for teachers and students to experience new technologies related to exploring the global ocean and discover pathways to marine careers using these new tools. During this experience, teachers receive in-depth content and technology instruction tied to Next Generation Science Standards, learn to incorporate marine technology-related, hands-on activities into the classroom, gain awareness of marine technologies and where they are used in regional ecosystems, and develop techniques for transferring their new knowledge to students and peers.
The Inner Space Center (ISC) uses cutting edge technology, including telepresence, for ocean research, exploration, and education. The ISC generates accessible portals for ocean research, expand the capacity for scientists to engage in real-time mission operations, while inspiring the next generation of ocean explorers. The ISC brings the excitement of ocean discoveries to onshore audiences world-wide. For more information, please visit www.mattsproject.org.
Valerie Cournoyer has been teaching freshman biology at Amity Regional High School in Woodbridge, Connecticut for 15 years. In addition, she is the Director of the Bermuda Studies Program, and teaches tropical marine biology, which introduces students at Amity to the Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences (BIOS) in Bermuda. Memorable moments include completing a 24-hour octopus study, night snorkeling with Caribbean Reef Squid, and seeing a Spotted Eagle Ray.
Prior to teaching in public school, Valerie worked for many years in non-profit, informal education organizations such as Ocean Classroom in Bridgeport, CT, and The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk. With a desire to use this background and experience, Valerie proposed having a year-long marine biology and oceanography class for juniors and seniors, which was recently started and is currently in its second year. Program materials form the MaTTs Project will enhance the development of this new course.
Valerie lives in Seymour, CT with her husband and youngest son, Sam, who is a high school senior and is currently applying for colleges. Her oldest son, Ben, works for Algenol, Inc. in Ft. Myers, FL making biofuels from algae. Personal interests include kayaking, quilting, and the occasional TV binge watching, the latest being the FX series Fargo.